Gatwick Airport urged to drop expansion plans

Gatwick Airport has been urged to drop expansion plans by campaigners in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 3:47 pm
Aircraft grounded at Gatwick Airport (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images) SUS-200405-122520001

Flights have largely been grounded during the lockdown and although business was growing in 2019, airport bosses believe it may take at least four years for passenger numbers to return to that high water mark.

Last month Gatwick confirmed it is still going ahead with plans to bring its current emergency runway into full-time use.

However this week the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) has called on the airport to drop its expansion plans, arguing that not only is there not a credible demand case, but it would be incompatible with national and local environmental goals.

Peter Barclay, chairman of GACC, said the group sympathised with employees and others whose jobs had been affected, but believes there is no credible case for expansion at Gatwick.

He added: “We are also concerned that a planning process would absorb council and other resources that should be focused on supporting people and businesses impacted by the pandemic. GACC therefore consider that Gatwick’s planning application for the development of its emergency runway should be withdrawn. We have written to the airport’s CEO asking him to do so.”

GACC has also written to local councils urging them to take steps to agree new planning arrangements under which all future growth, including any growth deriving from more intensive use of the main runway, would be subject to rigorous planning scrutiny and consent, in line with government policy.

Meanwhile fellow campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) has criticised the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for its recent decision on the emergency runway plans.

In a 12-page decision notice the CAA stressed that the objective of the current proposal is not to commence dual runway operations, but is solely to amend the airport’s aeronautical information publication entry as well as moving the centreline datum for the northern runway 12 metres to the north.

The CAA says it is required to secure the most efficient use of the airspace consistent with the safe operation of aircraft and the expeditious flow of air traffic.

According to its decision letter: “In this respect, the CAA is satisfied that the proposal offers no change to current operations in regard to efficient use of airspace.”

It says the proposal does not look to increase aircraft movements or alter traffic patterns aside from a 12-metre lateral shift to aircraft departure/arrival points to the northern runway.

The report added: “This proposal is one element which facilitates a potential move towards dual runway operations being a possibility in the future, it does not authorise them.”

Gatwick will still need to submit a Development Consent Order to authorise changes to the physical infrastructure and use.

CAGNE is continuing to highlight its concerns with the impact extra passengers from using the emergency runway would have on the infrastructure around the airport and extra noise from more aircraft.

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